Trump is neither disciplined, stable, nor smart enough to be a full-fledged, fascist autocrat, especially if checks and balances hold. The impeachment threat, dicey implementation aside, is one such looming check. Because this desperate deviant believes only in fame, cultism and profits, he relies on racist, fascist rhetoric to distract, inflame, and proclaim commandments to literalist true believers. The last thing Trump wants is for his pliant rally crowd to think for itself — or question his never-ending deceit. Ripe for fire and brimstone, they need only feel aggrieved. After all, what else do knee-jerk jingoists need with this know-it-all, fix-everything genius in charge?
Yet what Trump awards himself he denies the converted: radical individualism. Dissent is sacrilege. Thus, Trump’s neo-fascist propaganda suffers an undeniable contradiction: the cult leader is the ultimate, free-wheeling individualist (anything goes) but to survive his fans cannot diverge from the party line. His all-or-nothing propaganda is thus radically anti-democratic and anti-individualistic, demanding racial, tribal, ritualistic unanimity. Thus suckered cultists, like trained pit bulls, stay loyal, dreaming for a share in the spoils. That only happens to loyalists who adore whatever the cult hero declaims.
So Trump makes his own reality, imagining his phantom greatness, then insists all fans buy it. We’re in the closed world of faith fictions for many think God appointed this magical messenger to save them from that which they cannot save themselves (outsourcing, diversity, change, time). That same twisted Trumpnarcissism vilifies all doubters, critics and foes, reduced to treasonous anti-Americans who don’t deserve free speech, voting or residence rights — instant pariahs ordered: “back where you came from.”
Even the ‘fascism’ is phony
Of course, Trump and cronies would hate historic fascist government control, domineering over critical industries. Instead, Trump serves up rhetorical or phony fascism, evident in arbitrary tariff wars (and specious moral justifications), plus public bullying that scapegoats the enemy du jour: thieving foreigners, pricey drug companies, internet powers or “enemy of the people” — the media. Fascist dictators share hismania for tribal, racial nationalism, lust for totalitarian domination and imperialistic saber-rattling. ButTrump’s far more the intensively greedy economic imperialist whose global real estate intrusions shun disruptive hot wars.
Further, centralized, bureaucratic government dominance is anathema to Trump’s big energy, big mining, big business, individualist tycoon cronies. Like Trump, today’s peasant-scoffing Robber Barons glorify self-reliance that serves their insatiable self-interests, defying all “outside” constraints. Like Trump, they revel is disruptive “anything goes” gambits — translation: “do whatever you can get away with.” Despite chronic, crybaby rhetoric, Trump the elitist was not handcuffed by the elitist structure he excoriates: not by chronic whoppers, wildly under-regulated capitalism (racial discrimination wrist slaps), nor access to capital-rich (if overseas) financiers.
Which brings us to Trump contradiction Two: he trusts no one so he cannot sustain what even the glimmer of presidential competence needs —a coherent team on the same page (and without countless criminals). Refusing expert advice (and appointing puppets) explains why this pathological narcissist learns nothing from experience, certainly not from countless failures (serial bankruptcies or utterly unfilled promises). That why “I alone will fix everything” is his greatest lie, totally misreading the presidency. Second, because he demands loyalty but gives none (except to inept puppets), he will never create a functional executive team. Constant turnover is the inevitable result of never admitting error: so he churns through staffers who cannot do the impossible — make his lame-brain ideas work. Only puppets with unblinking loyalty and matching lying bravado (like Kelly Ann Convoy) aren’t tossed aside.
What makes Trump an “intellectual”/rhetorical fascist is 1) reckless contempt for the truth, 2) utter contempt for his rally base (otherwise, why insult them with chronic lies?), 3) contempt for all “un-American” foes; and 4) special contempt for ex-allies who dare betray the leader. Not only is this rank amateur blessed with a monopoly on knowledge but strategy, too, defining the ultimate flaw for any failed adult: the delusional refusal to take responsibility for failures, then scapegoating whoever momentarily crosses the path.
Ultimately, the wayward, intellectual fascist holds nearly everyone else in contempt, thus denying even staffers full humanity. As with any closed system, being right and having rights belong to the one messianic hero. Thus his popularity with rigid evangelicals, geared to abandon independent thought for certainty. Trump’s evangelical base is also convinced 1) it’s right about everything; and 2) thus must impose its theocratic will everywhere (especially on sinful non-believers). What ties the a-religious (immoral) Trump to rigid evangelicals is the unswerving conviction both know everything important that matters. Intellectual, political fascism, meet evangelical fundamentalism.
Thus emerges the dramatic conflict between faith-based individualism (the pre-determined, ordained “elect” in charge) and the other 99% born to take orders. No one articulates this peculiarly un-American, anti-democratic propaganda more than Trumper senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Hawley does not just reject abortion rights but individual liberty, indeed “self-evident” control over one’s own life. In May, his commencement address ridiculed the Founders’ guarantee that individuals have “the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self.” Say what? So much for the universal, personal commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Or is that only for white nationalists? Stand aside medieval Catholicism, here comes the autocratic TrumpManifesto.
Are we free agents — or cogs in a wheel?
Political fascism refuses democratic freedoms by framing people as unquestioning, obedient cogs in a systemic wheel that serves the tribal collective. That’s where fascism and communism touchpoints for both denigrate individual rights. That’s why monumental, overbearing fascist and communist art look so similar. Individualism is sacrificed for the alleged good of whole (read: only top dogs). If anything bringsTrump down, it is this recognition that Trumpery’s fascist, racist Big Lie poisons the promise of America: the cult leader saves the world but only when all the little people passively obey his commandments.
So much for the heartening, co-operative, melting pot motto on our Great Seal and currency, “e pluribus unum,” or “out of many one.” Trumpery faces not only the Democratic Party but our most elemental democratic terms — the belief citizens command our own destiny. We regress to the Monkey Trials and “Inherit the Wind.” When lawyer Darrow confronts Brady the evolution-denying fundamentalist (like climate deniers), he wins the day by defending the individual’s “power to think,” being the “one faculty of man that raises him above all other creatures of the earth.” Fascism, like Brady, denies the “individual mind is holy,” certainly Darrow’s truth that an independent, breakthrough idea is “a greater monument than a cathedral.”
What Trump demands of his gullible congregation is to glorify the Book of Trump and abandon what sets humanity apart from lesser animals: the individual right and ability to reason. That way lies intellectual fascism. If America foregoes that singular value, then it won’t matter who wins in 2020. We won’t even have to wait for climate change to declare the end of civilization: the abandonment of reason, and the glorification of any one leader, will accomplish that feat beforehand.